Revelation - Introduction

The Idealists (Spiritualists)

The idealist view, also known as the spiritual view teaches that chapters 4-22 of Revelation are not literal events, but symbolic imagery that represents the ongoing struggle between God and Satan. Writers with this view include Henry Alford, William Hendriksen, Rousas John Rushdoony, and Edward Joseph Young. The big problem with this view is that it denies the book of Revelation any specific historical fulfillment. Look at the first verse of the book:

Revelation 1:1 – A revelation of Jesus Christ, that God gave to him, to shew to his servants what things it behoveth to come to pass quickly; and he did signify [it], having sent through his messenger to his servant John, (YLT)

John says that this book describes actual events that will come to pass shortly. If we keep in mind that Revelation was written around 81-95 A.D, we can assume that the events are referring to some period after this time. Therefore, this view is inconsistent of what we know about the Bible.

The Preterists

The Preterist view comes from the Latin word Preter, which means “past.” This group includes Robert Charles Sproul, Hank Hanegraff, Kenneth Gentry, and Greg Bahnsen. They believe that Revelation chapters 4-19 was already fulfilled by 70 A.D. with the fall of Jerusalem. Those with the full view also include Revelation chapters 20-22 to have been fulfilled by 70 A.D. as well. However, those with a partial view believe that Revelation 20-22 describes future events such as the second coming of Christ. The problem with this view is similar to the problem with the idealist view. One, it assumes that Revelation was written before 70 A.D., which is questionable among many scholars who believe it was written in 95 A.D. Two, it claims that the majority of Revelation is only referring to a brief period of less than 2 years. This just doesn’t seem likely.

The Historicists

The Historicist view teaches that Revelation is a symbolic representation of actual events that occur through several thousand years. This includes major historic events that involve the Roman Empire, the Papacy, Israel, the Protestant Reformation, the French Revolution, etc. Scholars who held this view include John Wycliffe, John Knox, William Tyndale, Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Matthew Henry. This view was popular in the 16th and 17th centuries during the Protestant Reformation, but lost popularity in the 20th century. Among the four interpretations of Revelation, this is the only one that agrees with historical facts and is consistent with the rest of the Bible.

Revelation - Apokalupsis

Now let’s talk about the word Revelation itself. It comes from the Greek word apokalupsis. Notice how it is similar to the English word: “apocalypse.” This is one reason why people call Revelation the book of the apocalypse. However, the literal meaning of apokalupsis is “the unveiling.” The word “reveal” from which we get “Revelation” is similar to “unveil” but not exactly the same. “Reveal” means to make known, while “unveil” means to uncover something that has been hidden. Why is this important? Let’s look at how Paul uses this word:

Romans 8:19 – for the earnest looking out of the creation doth expect the revelation (apokalupsis) of the sons of God; (YLT, comment added)

For those of you that have read The Barley Overcomers, you know that the sons of God is referring to God’s elite group that have the full understanding of His plan. In this verse, Paul states that the creation awaits the unveiling of the sons of God. It is not a prophetic revelation that the creation is waiting. The majority of Christians are waiting for God to show Himself. So as we can see, “unveiling” is a much better translation than “revealing.” Here’s a few more verses:

1 Peter 1:13 – Wherefore having girded upon the loins of your mind, being sober, hope perfectly upon the grace that is being brought to you in the revelation (apokalupsis) of Jesus Christ, (YLT, comment added)

1 Peter 4:13 – but, according as ye have fellowship with the sufferings of the Christ, rejoice ye, that also in the revelation (apokalupsis) of his glory ye may rejoice – exulting; (YLT, comment added)

1 Peter says that Christ dwells in our hearts and minds, but His glory has not yet been unveiled. It is hidden, except to those with spiritual discernment. However, the day will come when Christ will be unveiled to all of mankind through the sons of God. So we can see that by simply looking at usage of the word apokalupsis in the Bible, the Historicist view is looking even more viable than the other views.

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